Pisgah Mountain 50K Race Review

Pisgah Mountain 50K Race Review


Peter and I ran the Pisgah Mountain 50K on Sunday morning, and it was one of the best races we’ve done so far! We especially loved how convenient it was since the race was only 40 minutes from our house! We got to sleep in our own bed the night before, and actually got a pretty decent amount of sleep–a great luxury because I don’t sleep well away from home, and I’ve run many races on little to no sleep. The race didn’t start until 8:45 a.m., so we had plenty of time that morning to eat a good breakfast, check in at the race, and do all our pre-race prep.

We had a beautiful, cool morning, which was absolutely everything I could have hoped for. When we started the race, it was actually a little chilly! I was wishing I wore my arm warmers! The race started out on a paved road, and it took longer than I would have liked to get to the trail, but this was good for spreading people out a little bit. Once we entered the state forest, the trail split almost immediately, and the 23K-ers left to follow a different route. This was the last time I saw other women runners for the rest of the race! From then on I was running with the middle-of-the-pack men.


The first section of the course was very easy. The trail was just technical enough to be fun without slowing me down at all. The terrain was easy, no big hills at this point. I felt really good running at about a 10-minute mile pace, and I passed a lot of men. We hit an unmanned water station at mile 4.8, and I ran right by, happy that I had worn my camelbak and didn’t have to stop at every station.

The next section of the trail was a little bit more difficult. The trail became slightly hillier and harder to follow. There were sections where there didn’t seem to be a clear footpath, and I had to watch closely for the pink ribbons marking the route. I walked a couple short hills in this section, but still maintained my 10-min. mile pace. We came to the first aid station at mile 8.1, and I stopped long enough to grab a couple of gels and continued on.

Heading out of this aid station, I encountered the first big hill. It was a long, steep, paved access road, and I walked up the whole thing. There was a bit of an easy stretch at the top, and then another long ascent up the Chestnut Hill Trail. I walked a lot, but it wasn’t tiring, and I made up a lot of time on the long downhill stretch afterwards. I came into the second aid station at mile 12 right at my goal time of 2:00. At this point I started to dream of a 5:15 finishing time, which would be by far my fastest time ever.

From here there was just a short jaunt to the next unmanned water station 13.5 miles, which I cruised right by, and then it was another relatively easy section to the third aid station at mile 17. There were a lot of up and downs, but nothing too bad. I was slightly behind pace at this point, but only by a couple of minutes, so I didn’t worry about it. I was tiring a little, but still feeling good.

I re-filled my hydration pack at this station, and since they didn’t have Heed, I took a chance on Gatorade and hoped it wouldn’t give me cramps. (It didn’t.) Then I started the long hike up Pisgah Mountain. By the time I got to the top, I was completely exhausted. The descent wasn’t any easier. I was feeling pretty beat up by the time I got to the bottom and discouraged by how long that short 3 mile section had taken me. I was looking forward to seeing my parents at the aid station at mile 19.9 though, so that kept me going strong. I arrived at 3:34 or so, now almost 15 minutes over my goal time, but still hopeful that I would recover during the Kilburn Pond loop and be able to make up some time.


I left the aid station and almost immediately felt intense IT band pain. I was wearing a patella strap on my other knee, so I took it off and used it to compress my IT band. It did start to feel better after awhile, and I was able to shuffle along with minimal pain, although steep downhills were still excruciating. This section of trail was also very technical, with lots of rocks and roots making it even more difficult for my tired legs to cover the miles. Needless to say, I did not make up any time on this loop, but I was encouraged by the fact that I was able to do the 5.5 mile loop in an hour, so I didn’t lose much time either. I saw my parents again as I came through aid station #4 for the second time, and they walked/ran with my up the hill as I continued on my way.


“Only” 3.3 miles from here to the next unmanned water station, but I ran out of water almost right away (bad planning), and those 3 miles seemed to take forever! This section was also very tough with climbs up and over Davis Hill and then Hubbard Hill, and I was utterly exhausted at this point. The only thing that kept me going was that I needed to get to that water station! Once there, I filled my pack again, and guzzled.

From there it was a “short” jaunt of 2.3 miles to the finish line. Most of this was on a dirt road which then led to a paved road. I was so tired that I wanted to just stop and walk/crawl the rest of the way, but I passed a group of guys at someone’s house who cheered and yelled, “3rd place woman! 3rd place woman!” I couldn’t believe it, but if it was true, there was no way I was going to risk being surpassed at the last possible moment just because I wanted to take a walking break! I mustered all my strength reserves, ran as hard as I could to the finish, and crossed the line at 5:42.

Just after crossing the finish line!
Just after crossing the finish line!

Then I promptly collapsed. My mom bustled around me asking if I wanted water, or food, or ice, and I was like, “Mom, just let me die!”


Overall, I was a little disappointed not to have gotten a better time, but every course has it’s own challenges, and I’ve learned that you can’t really compare one time to another with long trail runs like this. And my 3rd place finish more than makes up for missing out on a PR! Peter also finished very well–he came in 11th place overall, and he was very proud to report that he didn’t let any girls beat him this time! Although one came close! 🙂 All in all, we had a great time, and we are already talking about going back to do it again next year!


4 thoughts on “Pisgah Mountain 50K Race Review

  1. You guys rock!! Now when you said you came it at 4:42… was that 4:42pm? I assume it wasn’t your pace since you said it wasn’t a PR and that 5:15 was your dream finishing time.

  2. Hey Leah, I’m planning on running the 2013 race (my first 50K… gulp!) at about the pace you ran in 2012 (maybe a few minutes slower), and this is such a great description. Love the “only” at the start of the Davis/Hubbard section.

    Hardest decision so far seems to be whether to let those first 5 miles be a little faster than pace or whether they should be run at goal pace too. 10 minutes sounds right, but I keep wondering if 11’s would be better in terms of saving more energy for later, or if the slower hill walking later more than makes up for the faster early miles. Decisions, decisions…

    btw, when you said you hit mile 12 at 1:20, did you mean 120 minutes? 1:20 seems really fast!

  3. Yeah, my mistake, I did mean 120 minutes, or two hours. I certainly couldn’t do 12 miles in 1 hr and 20 mins! 🙂 If I did it again, I would be careful to save more energy for the end of the race. Going up and over Pisgah Mtn. is pretty brutal, and then you’ve still got Davis and Hubbard right near the end–both significant climbs.

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